‘Don’t indulge those lies’: Ron DeSantis defends Black history standards, says scholars wrote them

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'The people that put those standards together were scholars of African American history.'

Gov. Ron DeSantis stood by Florida’s Black history standards in a nationally televised interview, reiterating that scholars wrote the controversial guidelines.

For weeks now, scrutiny has surrounded a curriculum approved by Florida’s Board of Education directing teachers to instruct, in part, that “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

In an interview about his presidential campaign, NBC News reporter Dasha Burns asked DeSantis about that language specifically. The Governor suggested the meaning has been twisted by political opponents.

“That means they developed skills in spite of slavery, not because of slavery,” DeSantis said. “It was them (slaves) showing resourcefulness, and then using those skills once slavery ended.”

He also stressed the language originated from scholars in the field. Members of the working group behind the standards have said two members, William Allen and Frances Presley Rice, pushed the inclusion of the controversial passage in the standards.

“The people that put those standards together were scholars of African American history,” DeSantis said. “These were not political standards.”

After Vice President Kamala Harris criticized the guidelines, DeSantis invited her to come to Florida to discuss the standards with him and Allen, a former U.S. Civil Rights Commission Chair. Harris declined.

“I tell you there is no roundtable, no lecture, no invitation we will accept to debate an undeniable fact. There were no redeeming qualities of slavery,” Harris said.

DeSantis defended other portions of his education agenda as Governor. He claimed to have removed many political messages from Florida’s classrooms.

“Florida eliminated critical race theory because it’s ideology, and we want education, not indoctrination. When we did that, a lot of people were saying, ‘Oh, you don’t want to teach about African American history,’” DeSantis said.

That led Florida to build up its Black history curriculum and make clear what should and should not be taught.

“That’s how that working group came into being,” DeSantis said. “They had copious standards. I mean, just really thorough. And we’re one of only 14 or 15 states that even have African American history standards.

“That was written by primarily African Americans themselves who were scholars, and they’ve been very clear. They are not saying that slavery was a positive good at all. And if you read the entire standards, it’s very clear that they’re showing that this was a grave injustice, and it contradicted the founding principles of our country.”

Democrats have asserted DeSantis and Republicans in the Legislature have forced their own politics into Florida’s school curricula. But the Governor said that’s not the case. “We’ve been involved in education, not indoctrination,” he said.

He pegged controversy around the standards on Harris, and said the standards before the Vice President’s comments were being praised.

“Kamala Harris decided to come down and demagogue it and basically lie about it,” he said.

“And these guys who wrote it, they’ve defended what they’ve done. And so as Governor, I’m going to stand by them. I am not going to let people lie about things that are going on in Florida. That’s become a cottage industry. We have got to stop acting in bad faith in this country. There’s no way you can read that whole list of standards and come to any other conclusion that they are accurately depicting the injustice of slavery.”

Of note, Republicans have joined Harris in criticizing the standards, including U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, a Naples Republican, and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, one of DeSantis’ opponents for the Republican nomination for President.

“What slavery was really about was separating families, about mutilating humans and even raping their wives. It was just devastating,” Scott told press last month.

DeSantis said Scott was siding with Harris and against the state of Florida. “Don’t indulge those lies,” he said. “She’s saying that those standards that were developed by African American history scholars are somehow saying slavery was a good thing. That’s false. That is not what they said.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Jay Smif

    August 7, 2023 at 9:13 am

    “Scholars” in the same way that the KKK and Patriot Front are “civil rights protestors.”

    DeSantis is racist, fascist, and wanna-be authoritarian trash.

  • Dale A Arnold

    August 7, 2023 at 10:03 am

    Yeah and Jewish people “gained skills” while in Nazi death camps that they” benefited “from once they became liberated from the Death camps! Teach that when talking about the Holocaust… Yeah I didn’t think so.

  • My Take

    August 7, 2023 at 10:54 am

    “Southern Slave Schools–The Forgotten Kindness” — by Col. “Rep” DeSSlantus: Hillsdale College Press.

  • Dont Say FLA

    August 7, 2023 at 12:05 pm

    “The people that put those standards together were scholars of African American history.” Yes, we know, Rhonda, they were all enslaved humans within the USA and they parlayed their cotton pickin’ skills into history PhD’s. Right, Rhonda?

  • MH/Duuuval

    August 7, 2023 at 12:56 pm

    I did a quick survey of the standards and two problems appeared to me:
    First, Reconstruction and “Redemption” are barely mentioned. (These are crucial for the reparations discussion.)
    Second, the Battle of Olustee is mentioned as an example of what needs to be covered. So, will students learn the fact that after the battle, local whites and renegade Confederate soldiers went onto the battlefield and liquidated wounded Black soldiers?

  • Sonja Fitch

    August 7, 2023 at 1:10 pm

    Lol. Desantis and HIS Truth is NOT the real truth. Whatever bubbles out of Desantis is HIS truth. Common Good and the Real Truth.

  • My Take

    August 7, 2023 at 10:41 pm

    “The Whipping Post–An Educational Tool,” by “Judge” R. DeSSlantus, in Antebellum Society and Social Order: New New College Press

  • Miami guy

    August 8, 2023 at 4:46 am

    “Slavery was good” – Ron desantis

Comments are closed.


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